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As today’s younger generation is being reared on Beyoncé, Coldplay, Maroon 5, One Direction, Taylor Swift, and many more (just see Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show as an example), the music that our parents and many of us have grown up with is slowly disappearing. The knowledge and the influence of great artists like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, Otis Redding, The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, and a host of others is being forgotten. More and more people couldn’t name a song sang by The Beatles, who think Led Zeppelin is a comic character, or believe Nirvana wrote “The Man Who Sold The World”. And speaking of Bowie, I came across a few people who asked, “Who?”, when one of the most iconic artists of our time passed away last month.
But whose fault is this? It’s the responsibility of everyone to ensure the great music of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Patti Smith, Patsy Cline, The Allman Brothers, Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Joy Division, etc. continue to be shared and that tomorrow’s artists will be influenced by them. But maybe the most effective way is to applaud the work and raise the profile of emerging bands who unbashedly create classic rock, soul, blues, or roots of the past. Halifax’s Nap Eyes is one such young band who deserve our attention.
Nap Eyes are today’s answer to Lou Reed as a solo artist and during his time with The Velvet Underground. On their solo album, Thought Rock Fish Scale, Nap Eyes’ melancholic and contemplative nature is eerily similar to the iconic New York City artist and band. Each song is steeped with the deadpan emotion of Reed’s riveting storytelling and the soothing and meditative melodies that The Velvet Underground became known for. The album’s opening tracks, “Mixer” and “Stargazer”, personify Nap Eyes’ reinterpretation of ’70s smokey soft rock. The former is a warm, groovy number while the latter is a melodic, percussion-driven gem. “Stargazer” is like if The Dodos opted to dial the pace three notches down and become a melodic, ’70s psych-folk band. It’s absolutely brilliant, and you’ll be mindlessly noodling your head to the cathartic rhythm.
Nap Eyes’ frontman and primary songwriter Nigel Chapman also adopts Reed’s love of allegory to reflect back on one’s life. “Lion in Chains” sees Chapman recall life in rural Nova Scotia and that feeling of entrapment, like a lion in chains. But more than just the lyrical style and the melodic indie-rock sound, Chapman seems to purposely transport himself to the ’70s with lyrics like, “Here at the arcade I spent 45,000 dimes.” (When was the last time someone went to the arcade and spent a dime?)
There is something completely Canadian in Nap Eyes’ music. The songs are thoughtful and considerate, personal and introspective, and, in very typical Canadian fashion, have a hidden humor or even sarcasm interlaced in them. On the fantastic, mood-shifting “Click Clack”, Chapman takes a subtle shot at the isolation and loneliness of his hometown and the people who seem to be suspended in time. Even when he might have found a way out, he’s yanked back in – or he hasn’t even left at all.
The “rocker” on the album, “Roll It”, which features an awesome bass line, recalls that feeling we’ve all felt when we were younger. That sense of being stuck in no man’s land and the only thing we could do is try to fit in and roll with it. Yet, there’s that unwavering feeling that we are the stranger in this strange place. As Chapman concisely repeats, “What if it’s you? What if it’s you? It could be me. It could be me!”
During the chorus of “Roll It”, Chapman could be expressing his place in today’s music world. He, Seamus Dalton, Josh Salter, and Brad Loughead aren’t creating music that would be considered anything close to mainstream. While the band unabashedly channel Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, Thought Rock Fish Scale sounds refreshing. It sounds honest. It sounds real. It is an album that should be shared with everyone, not just today but for years to come in order to remind of us the how great music can be.
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